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There are occasions when your children look at you and wonder just what the hell is going through your head. It would be easy to dismiss this as simple misunderstanding or even the hormonal struggle that creates the eye-roll and angst-ridden *sigh*.

Yet I understand what all four of my children meant today, it probably looked like I got this wild hair that came from nowhere.

But nowhere is not where this came from.

For weeks, since I signed a new lease for our home, I have noticed that my carpets were not just soiled but nearly brown from the dirt tracked in to the hallway between the bathroom and the garage.  For years I’d had a carpet shampooer until it broke four years ago when we moved to our current home. We rent, so that’s always a hard thing to adjust. If you have a situation like this it isn’t easy to fix and you don’t own the property at the end of the day.  There are benefits and detriments to this, but those aren’t the subject of this post.

So I bought another shampooer.  No, it’s not as good as, say “Stanley Steemer” or even renting a “Rug Doctor” but they do work well enough to get things . . . well . . . clean enough.

Sure, there was the adventure of traveling from our home to the local Target trying to understand why (why?!) they decided to redo the entire parking lot in the middle of a Sunday…with only one way in…while the entire complex had a farmer’s market.  Then the hour-long trip of everything else we needed to get in the store.

When I got home the cleaning started in earnest.  We moved furniture.  We moved everything . . . and I cleaned.  I got them dusting, climbing ladders to get rid of cobwebs.  I had them dusting the picture frames and wiping up the counters and throwing out all their old school work.

It was after this the purge began.

Aliens on Vacation
Aliens on Vacation

In one corner I found old school projects.  My sons, in the first year in our home (ignore the toilet paper in the corner of the photo, please, part of the purge again) had a book report.  A visual book report. I found the “visual” part of that sitting in a corner.  It had to go.  So did the other son’s.  I loved them, we worked very hard on them and they were kind of spectacular in how they looked and all . . . but at the end of the day they were still just a couple of things eating up space and gathering dust.

Then came the rest of it . . . I found chickens . . . a handful of chickens.  Ceramic chickens, glass ones, ones on a table, ones that are bookends, just chickens everywhere. I put them away resolving to sell them on Ebay.

My kids had these giant baskets under a bookshelf behind the couch. After shampooing carpets we took them out and threw out everything. I do mean everything. Nothing stayed, as most of it was Happy Meal toys and other materials. We took their books out and placed them on their bookshelves in their rooms. I turned the shelf into a repository for my vinyl LPs.

It was in this that my daughter found one of those books with an electronic recording. Years ago, before their grandmother, my late wife’s mother, had gotten very ill she recorded a book called something along the lines of “this is how much I love you.”

My sons simultaneously yelled at my daughter “NO!!! Don’t open it!” It was too late.

Their late grandmother’s voice carried through the kitchen, causing groans to erupt behind me. The boys immediately took their stacks of books up the stairs to avoid it.

“I can’t shut it of,” my daughter said, meekly. She acted like it was an accident, but minutes later, after it finished its reading I heard it again.

And again.

“Why don’t you put it on the shelf,” I told her, telling her she’d be able to hear it again someday and it would make her smile. They’re almost there.

It’s hard, there are no recordings like this of their mother, just old anchoring videos, which we’ve found. Even those make the kids smile, it’s seeing a side to their mother they hadn’t seen before.

But the purge . . . isn’t to purge everything or the memories. It’s to make room for the new ones.

As I finished the day I put new pictures, ones of the kids and I, one of the boys . . . up on the wall of photos that started with their mother.

It’s not getting rid of the past or the memories . . . it’s making room for the future.

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